It's a funny time to give the bullpen coach a big promotion, right on the heels of five badly botched games in the span of 10 days. But Pete Maki says he's ready.
"Bring it on, man. Bring on the struggles," Maki said with a smile after being named Wes Johnson's successor as pitching coach of the Twins. "We're going to go through periods of stink sometimes. … We'll do a good job today with what we've got."
What he's got, after all, is the same bullpen that also put together a stretch of 15 consecutive scoreless innings last week, sandwiched between the ugly losses. That's the staff Maki believes he inherits, and the one he wants to support in his new role.
"A lot of it will come down to getting into good counts. When you fall behind, it's tougher to do well," said Maki, the 39-year-old former pitching coach at Columbia and Duke. "We're going to attack earlier in the count [and] know what to do with two strikes. … We haven't done a great job of that."
Maki has the endorsement of his predecessor, whose Twins career ended with his decision this week to accept the job of pitching coach at LSU. "Pete's extremely smart. He understands this game, understands pitching, understands the way the body's got to work to throw the ball," Johnson said. "He's phenomenal at that. He's done it as a coordinator. He's going to do a really good job."
But first, he's got to learn about the starting pitchers, a process he started immediately upon learning he would replace Johnson.
"I know what pitches they have and what they do to put guys away. I know them. I need to get to know them better," Maki said. "I haven't had that in-dugout, in-game conversation with them. That's important."
With Maki, who has served as bullpen coach since 2020, now in the dugout, the Twins promoted Colby Suggs, whom Johnson hired to help put together scouting reports on opposing hitters and present them to Twins pitchers. Suggs will retain most of those duties, but he will also serve as bullpen coach during games.
"I have great relationships with [Twins pitchers]. They come to me with questions," said Suggs, who pitched in the Marlins' minor league system from 2013 to '16 and worked as a coach at Arkansas with Johnson. "So they have a lot of trust and know I'm prepared to give them a good plan. I appreciate their confidence."
Pagan's role changes
Emilio Pagan, who surrendered leads to the Guardians four times in the past 10 days, won't work in similar situations, at least for awhile, in order to regain his confidence and effectiveness.
"He's going to pitch earlier in the games, and potentially when we don't have the lead," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "This wasn't shocking when I talked to him about it."
Righthander Tyler Thornburg, meanwhile, was designated for assignment on Friday, after surrendering a walkoff home run to Andres Gimenez the day before. Thornburg, signed on June 10 after being cut by the Braves, pitched four scoreless appearances for the Twins before giving up four runs Thursday.
Juan Minaya, who pitched four games in May and June before being cut, returned to the Twins from Class AAA St. Paul.
- Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey on the team's trade prospects: "We've had a lot of conversations with a lot of teams; I don't anticipate anything [happening] in the short term. There are a lot of teams trying to flesh out the market. There's an extra wild card in both leagues now. Are teams in it, are teams not in it, have they had the chance to really talk through that? When you're on the buy side of that, sometimes you have to wait for the sellers to make their final determination about whether they're ready to go."
- Righthander Trevor Megill, out because of a shoulder impingement but now eligible to return from the injured list, will make a rehab appearance for the Saints on Saturday.